Egypt Daily Update: State Department Religious Freedom Report Criticizes Egypt

August 16, 2017

State Department Religious Freedom Report Criticizes Egypt

Unemployment Eases, Tourism Revenue Up in Latest Numbers

Three Policemen Killed in Separate Attacks in North Sinai

Cartoon of the Day: Constitution

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State Department Religious Freedom Report Criticizes Egypt

The U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor released its 2016 International Religious Freedom Report on Tuesday. The report was particularly focused on the Islamic State’s persecution of religious minorities across the Middle East, and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson mentioned in his remarks at the release of the report that the Islamic State has “claimed responsibility for attacks on Christian pilgrims and churches in Egypt.” He added that “the protection of these groups and others subject to violent extremism is a human rights priority for the Trump administration.”

Though the portion of the report dedicated to Egypt does focus on “significant threats of terrorist attacks and sectarian violence,” particularly from the Islamic State, the report also criticizes the Egyptian government for discrimination towards religious minorities. Specifically, the report states that “government officials, courts, and prosecutors sometimes did not extend procedural safeguards and rights of due process to members of minority faiths.” The report also criticizes security forces for failing “to respond in a timely manner to attacks on Christians […] especially in Upper Egypt,” and for failing to “investigate or prosecute such attacks, relying instead on the controversial practice of ‘customary reconciliation’ sessions whereby both sides in a dispute negotiated a settlement.” Several different Egyptian media outlets [Ar] chose to ignore the pervasive criticism of the Egyptian government in the report, instead reporting that the United States had praised al-Sisi and citing a specific line in the report saying that “President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi continued to call on Muslim scholars to renew religious discourse and challenge the ideology of extremists.”


Unemployment Eases, Tourism Revenue Up in Latest Numbers

According to the Egyptian government’s Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics (CAPMAS), Egypt’s unemployment rate fell [Ar] to 11.98 percent in the second quarter of 2017. This marks the first time that the unemployment rate has fallen below 12 percent since the 2011 uprising. However, almost 80 percent of those unemployed were between the ages of 15 and 29, and 40.5 percent of those unemployed had graduated from college or completed a graduate degree. Reham al-Desouki, the head economist at Arqam Capital, said [Ar] that the decline in unemployment rate is “a step in the right direction towards the recovery of the Egyptian economy.”

In more good news for the struggling Egyptian economy, Bloomberg reported on Tuesday that Egyptian tourism revenue had almost tripled in the last three months of its fiscal year compared to the same quarter last year. According to information shared by the Egyptian central bank with Bloomberg, tourism revenue rose to $1.5 billion in the quarter, as compared to $510 million a year ago. Remittances from workers outside the country also rose 9 percent in the quarter from last year. The increases are good news for the cash-strapped Egyptian economy. However, the full-year tourism revenue of $4.4 billion pales in comparison to the 2010 numbers, when Egypt brought in $11.6 billion.


Three Policemen Killed in Separate Attacks in North Sinai

Three Egyptian policemen were killed in three different attacks near the North Sinai city of al-Arish on Tuesday and Wednesday. On Tuesday, a police officer in his car in al-Arish was ambushed [Ar] by unidentified gunmen, who shot the officer and fled. A police conscript was killed in a similar manner in the city earlier in the day. Then, on Wednesday, a police patrol was ambushed [Ar] on the outskirts of al-Arish by an unspecified number of gunmen, who opened fire, killing one and seriously injuring three. No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attacks, but they are likely the work of Islamic State-affiliated militants.


Cartoon of the Day: Constitution

Newspaper: “Calls for amendments to the constitution”
Man on right: “Wait, we have a constitution?!!!”
Mohamed Anwar – Al-Masry Al-Youm – 08/16/2017


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